Joburg is where the money is and where the deals are made – we’re ready to work with business

By Executive Mayor Mpho Phalatse

It is a great privilege to be afforded a platform to address such esteemed company from here and abroad, right here in the economic hub of South Africa – the bustling City of Johannesburg, a place of diversity that we are repairing and rebuilding to transform into a City of Golden Opportunities. 
These golden opportunities must extend to all 6-million residents, businesses, and investors – from the continent and beyond our shores. 

This gathering certainly comes at a critical time for the City of Johannesburg, which faces tremendous political headwinds that are cause for concern, but it is up to people in my powerful position, despite the challenges we face, to continue working and to assure you that the work of government still continues. 

Johannesburg has seen significant regression over the years due to a myriad of issues that we are all intimately aware of and therefore do not need to be repeated, but a relationship that has suffered through this backward slide has been the relationship between business and government. 

More sharply, over the last decade we have grown distrustful of one another; we have become adversarial; and we have walked separate paths, when in fact it is beneficial to us both to walk the long and hard road together. 

Over the last year, me and the ten Members of the Mayoral Committee (known as Deputy Mayors in some parts of the world) have been very direct in stating that the business community has a friend and partner in us. We have gone even further to state that we cannot repair and rebuild Joburg without the private sector at all levels. 

It is for this reason that the Joburg Multi-Party Government identified seven inter-dependent Mayoral Priorities that make up the strategic thrust of our programme of service delivery. The Mayoral Priorities speak to building a vibrant, safe, and resilient city where local government delivers a quality life for every resident and business alike. The priorities are: 

  1. A City that gets the basics right
  2. A safe and secure City
  3. A caring City
  4. A business-friendly City
  5. An inclusive City
  6. A well-run City
  7. A smart City

These focus areas are funded by a R77,3-billion budget that took effect on 1 July for the 2022/23 financial year, of which R7,7-billion is earmarked for capital projects, with a focus on energy, water, and roads infrastructure. (As an aside, Eskom spent R7,7-billion on diesel in the first six months this year). 

Energy, water, and roads infrastructure make the lives of residents better; and these are the investments made by government that make it easier for you to do business and for new businesses to flourish so that more jobs can be created. 

We cannot talk about building a City and supporting micro, small and medium enterprises without talking about reliable, sustainable, and affordable energy. This is why, one of my first orders of business was to convene a two-day energy summit at the end of April, so that the City could be begin mapping a road towards reducing our reliance on the national power utility, Eskom. 

Rolling blackouts or loadshedding, as it has commonly become known as, has devasted our economy, where entire parts of the City and country come to an economic halt for up to four-hours at a time, several times a day in the extreme case. The reality is that if Joburg’s economy collapses it would send significant shockwaves across the country and the continent. 

We realized that if we were to insulate business from this, we need to procure up to 500MW of renewable energy over a period of 18 to 36-months. I am therefore delighted to state we will publish the first Requests For Proposal (RFPs) for short-term energy supply (a period of 3 years) from the private sector by mid-November. We are ready to start seeing the back of rolling blackouts, so that the economy of Joburg works without interruption. 

A City whose contribution to the national economy is almost 16%, while it contributes to 40% of Gauteng’s economy cannot be left without energy for hours on end. As the government we are working so that you can work. 

Joburg is where the money is and where the deals are made. 

It's the first stop for any big-thinking business. 

Everything you need to operate is here – the infrastructure, the finances, and the people. Including the right government that wants to work with you and for you. 

Johannesburg is the hub of South Africa and the hub of southern Africa's transport networks, particularly road and air. 

It has a large concentration of some of the most highly skilled people in the country and in Africa, as well as some of the continent and world’s top-rated universities, which we have a close working relationship with so that our policies are informed by data and knowledge. 

Despite the advances in technology that have enabled to work without borders, an economic hub cannot function optimally without a functional inner city where businesses can operate from and residents can work, play, and pray from. 

While Sandton and Rosebank, in the main, have benefitted from the degradation of the inner city, we still realize the economic significance of the location and the existing infrastructure that connects it to the rest of the City and the continent. Over and above this, we have been encouraged by the outpouring of support and commitment from business and organised inner-city stakeholders who want to work with us in giving the Joburg CBD back its golden shine. 

Through the Department of Development Planning, we are building a new Joburg Inner City by taking back hijacked buildings for the purpose of mixed-use buildings and low-cost housing. These developments will have to comply with our Green Building Policy, as part of our concerted effort to achieve low to net zero carbon performance for all new buildings in Joburg by 2030, while achieving a total net zero performance compliance standard by 2050. 

By increasing investment and prioritizing environmentally friendly construction in city projects, we have the opportunity to create 143,000 green jobs by 2030. 

In a free-market society, we must disassociate with the idea that it is the role of government to create jobs. My job is to ensure that the environment is suitable for you to create jobs. 

Notwithstanding this fact, there are times when the government must step in to regulate, without creating unnecessary red tape, and to correct imbalances without interfering with the market. In this regard, the Multi-Party Government aims to support 55,323 micro, small and medium enterprises over the next five years (2022 – 2027), and 14,500 will be supported in this financial year. 

The businesses will be incubated by our Opportunity Centres run by the Department of Economic Development, which provide entrepreneurs with access to information, support, and resources. We want entrepreneurs to have the best possible chance at not just surviving but also growing. 

Further to this, the City aims to empower 200 learners in a technical and artisan skills programme, in the 2022/23 financial year, with a five-year target of training 1,000 learners in the programme. 

Leaders in business and government, A process to initiate the establishment of City of Johannesburg Special Economic Zones is currently underway. The process is informed by the City’s steadfast plans to accelerate industrialisation and the localised production of goods and traded services within the metro, in pursuit of strengthening Joburg’s economic recovery. For the City of Johannesburg, the transport, logistics and warehousing, as well as the ICT sectors will be targeted. 

The Special Economic Zones come with tailored incentives packaging for businesses, business support services, cluster development, and minimal red tape. 

I am hopeful and excited by what can and what will indeed be done in Joburg and cities across the continent with you. We have been told about the potential that Africa has, let’s stop the talking and let’s get to work. Lest we fumble this opportunity to do something truly great. 

The following remarks were delivered by the Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Cllr Mpho Phalatse, during the 9th edition of the Southern Africa-Europe CEO Dialogue hosted by The European House – Ambrosetti at the Marriott Hotel Melrose Arch. 

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